The 'Labyrinth of my history': the struggle with filiation in J.M. Coetzee's 'Dusklands'.

Atwell, David
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Filiation is the name given to that realm of nature or "life" that defines what is historically given to us by birth or circumstance. Affiliation represents the process whereby filiative ties are broken and new ones formed, within cultural systems that constitute alternative sources of authority or coherence. The fiction of J. M. Coetzee embodies this shift; from the early work, in which colonialism is the ground on which consciousness and identity are formed, to the later, in which the inter-textual networks of literature are explored for their promise of partial forms of freedom. It would be a mistake, however, to read Life and Times of Michael K and Foe as a-historical departures from the more socially critical Dusklands and In the Heart cf the Country. Affiliation is itself a historical process; it is the place where biography and culture meet. In Coetzee, it is also a way of upholding a particular kind of critical consciousness, one that is always alert to both the disingenuous exercise of power, and the disingenuous representation of power. This essay is concerned with a small portion of the movement from filiation to affiliation within the corpus of Coetzee's novels: its beginnings in Dusklands.
Paper presented at the Wits History Workshop: Structure and Experience in the Making of Apartheid, 6 -10 February, 1990
Coetzee, J. M., Filiation, Affiliation, Dusklands